FIRST HOME PAGE +
FIRST SHORT STORY
This “First Home Page” was first written and published on 09-09-09 – (and not only that but it was done on the 9th second of the 9th minute of the 9th hour of that day which came about only because I was getting ready to launch it a few days earlier when I noticed that 09-09-09 was coming up and I figured that there has to be a religion or a cult or a following that favors the number 9 somewhere in the world – if not I said that I’d settle for a superstition – and that that fact alone had to auger well for a new enterprise. How so, you ask? Well, like the Greek shepherd said when asked why, as a practicing Greek Orthodox Christian, did he go through pagan rituals everyday at Sunrise and Sunset, “I’d be a fool not to.”) – but it was erased (inadvertently, I do assure you,) when I was attempting, unwisely, to ‘Edit-Navigate’ some order into the – up to this date which is 07-06-11 – 89 pages and 93 stories that are in the archives.
The full list is on view to the left. Enjoy!
Back then I really thought that it had fallen to me to do something about the deplorable state that short stories were, and still are, suffering through. I put it down then, and still do, to the few magazines who still publish them and, although the vast majority of them are extremely well written, of course, very few of them have a beginning and a middle and an end. So far this year of the ones that I’ve read only around a quarter of them have done so.
Anyway, since then I’ve found out that Robert Ludlum said the same thing long before I did – he said that writing fiction is a craft first and foremost and nothing should be published until craftsmanship has seen to it that the writer has fashioned a work that has those same essentials – a beginning and a middle and an end.
Back then – I was late coming out with it because I’d taken time out to finish my third novel, not because I wanted to but because I had to – I took it as far as to say that I believed that the same lack of craftsmanship was responsible for the deplorable ending to the “The Sopranos” in that the guy was a murderer and a thief and a racketeer and a womanizer and an exploiter who should have been given an appropriate death if only because the whole country wanted to see that happen. (Incidently, I wrote an ending of my own that only took a few hours to do and any competent fiction writer who put his mind to it could do the sane thing.)
Well, be that as it may, I’m aiming to stop adding to this website on 11-11-11 – with story number 111, if I can manage the logistics – and that will be that as far as my short stories are concerned although I have around thirty novellas that are ready to go but I’ll wait until 11-12-11 before starting to think about their future.
Before you get started on reading the S/S’s I’m going to take this opportunity to warn you that while I’ve avoided out-and-out porn in all of them – I find that reading it gets to be tedious and then boring all too quickly and even discourages further reading of any kind for some time – I haven’t stopped at the bedroom door in any of them because I firmly believe that what a man and a woman get up to between the sheets is very important regarding human relationships and that can run the gamut from the, understandable, can’t-get-enough of each other in the flush of youth; through the ‘Happily tumbling into bed on Sunday afternoons’ of adulthood; and, twenty odd years and two or three kids later, “Please pull my night gown down when you’ve finished dear.” and; finally, as quoted recently in a newspaper after being overhead in a restaurant, “I’d willingly pay a woman to have sex with my husband if it meant that I didn’t have to.”
Some of these stories might be a little over-explicit for some people so may I advise them to do some liberal skipping and at all times feel free to move on to the next one because most of them have very little in them that offends.
The ‘Page numbers’ aren’t important because none of them – except for Nos. 83 and 84 (I was reluctant to ‘bury’ the ending of number 83) – are related and so you’re free to browse every-which-way.
You’ll have to judge their quality for yourselves but I can assure you of at least one thing – they all have a Beginning and a Middle and an End
The following was the first short story of this website and it was originally published on 09-09-09 and is being re-published today – 07-06-11 – because a mysterious computer error deleted it.
HEY NOW, BE REALLY CAREFULWITH THOSE SCISSORS.
When Gregg Hawley was made CFO of his company his first full-year bonus was so big – he wouldn’t tell us how much it was but we figured that it had to be many millions because his company CEO’s had been written up in a financial paper and it was eighteen million plus – that he bought himself a ‘cabin’ way up in northern New York State that is close to our long time favorite fishing spots where, previously, we’d had to rough it out in tents.
The ‘we’ that I’m talking about are four guys who, long since, used to play poker on our train commute into the City – and, until recently, still did play it every Wednesday night and we always used Gregg’s house because he’d had an extension built on to it that’s perfect for card playing and beer drinking and, besides that and hard to believe, he was such an authoritative figure that when he told his kids to keep away from us on Wednesday nights, wonder of wonders, they actually did so! – who, beginning six years ago, started going up to the ‘cabin’ regularly in late spring and we always stayed there through the following week. We would have done that much more often if our families hadn’t all categorically rebelled, after trying it once, saying that because they had no interest whatsoever in fishing, nor in flora and fauna, if they had to be confined indoors somewhere for days on end they preferred it to be where they could get onto the internet and also do some texting and tweeting and, whatever.
Gregg called it his ‘cabin’ but it’s really a two storied, four bedroom-ed, five bath-ed, eat-in kitchen-ed, bar and pool-table basement-ed, timbered and stucco-ed house.
When he bought it from a widow woman, who had finally been beaten down by her huge heating bills and was going south to live in Florida permanently, she asked him to consider letting a guy called Fred Torres keep on living there as housekeeper the year round, and as cook and chauffer when needed, and when Gregg found him to be pleasant and self effacing, and a good cook and a tee-totaller to boot, he agreed to hire him because it was convenient for his long term plans – he figured that, besides us, he’d be inviting corporate colleagues to go up and do some hunting in the appropriate seasons through the year – in that a live-in housekeeper would help ensure the place’s safety, and its readiness, at all times.
Fred’s English accent and vocabulary was as good as mine but his Hispanic heritage was revealed regularly because he often interjected the truncated interrogatory phrase, otherwise known – in my academic circles – as a pragmatic particle: “D’you know?” into his speech (he pronounced it, “D’jew no?”) and he often used the exclamation, “Mira!” instead of, “Look!”
I found out that he’d been born and brought up in Costa Rica and his father had taken off when he was an infant and a few years later an American teenage drifter, named Bryn Walters, who’d tired of constantly moving on had tried to put down roots in his mother’s village and had moved in with them, as a lodger at first, and when he’d been upgraded to full-time lover and provider – he got a generous monthly check from his family in the States that was conditional on his not returning home – he’d insisted that everybody learn and practice speaking English at home and Fred had been at just the right age to be able to assimilate it in his stride. However, “El Gringo Flaco,” as he was known there, evidently couldn’t completely subdue his wanderlust and around five years later his new family woke up one morning and there he was, gone. I asked Fred if he’d come to the States to find Bryn Walters and he told me, “No. I came here to get away from my new step-father.” He’d say no more than that about it and the drawn, bordering on haunted, look that had come to his face effectively precluded more questions of a personal nature.
Because Spanish was his mother-tongue I shamelessly took the opportunity to improve my skill in that language every time that I went up there – I have to use it more and more at work – and he not only didn’t mind giving me an hour of his time every afternoon, after fishing and before he served dinner, but if, for some reason, I was late for one of our regular sessions he’d come looking for me.
On what was to be our last trip up there, although we had no way of knowing it then, we arrived at the cabin late on a Saturday morning, as usual, and we picked up boxed lunches that had been prepared by Fred and we then walked to the nearest spot because we wanted to get in some fly-fishing ASAP.
The river was, as always, teeming with fish and we kept on catching and releasing – we saved five nicely sized trout for dinner – and we quit only when it started to get dark. When we got back to the cabin we grilled the fish ourselves because we were safe in the knowledge that it is virtually impossible to mess-up the cooking of freshly caught trout and it followed that, knowing that Fred would provide us with perfectly boiled and minted new-potatoes and a basic salad along with home-made bread, good eating was guaranteed.
Our usual MO was to go to seven different spots in our eight day vacation and on the first Sunday we’d go to the farthest one, a two hour drive in Gregg’s Cadillac SUV and only about twenty miles from the Canadian border, and we’d stay there in tents overnight and then drive back to the cabin on Monday before it got dark. On the other days we’d go on one-day trips and have two fishing sessions, before and after lunch, and we’d leave for home on the second Sunday morning and by then we’d be all fished out.
Fred would come along with us on these short trips, except to the two spots that were within walking distance, because although we spelled each other on the drives up there – there were few properly paved roads and so constant alertness was called for which is tiring – we needed a designated driver to bring us back because we all intended to be nicely smashed by then.
We were careful about not exploiting him – also, we always tipped him generously on our last day – and we didn’t think that we did so because he often mentioned that he liked driving the big, four-wheel drive, power-everything car even on bad roads. As I said earlier, he didn’t drink, ever, nor did he smoke nor cuss and he had such a nice, quiet, contented air about him that no one ever joshed him about his near to monkish life-style year round and, besides that, none of us wanted to risk riling him because not only was he an excellent cook but he made our stay more comfortable in a lot of other ways especially by cheerfully and smoothly doing most of the chores the moment that the need became evident which didn’t allow our guilt about not doing them ourselves have time to build up.
Well, as usual, we had a great time on the first Sunday up north and that night, as was traditional, Fred used the fish that we’d caught, along with other ingredients that he’d brought up in an ice-chest, to put together his wonderful gumbo, served with white rice.
Although he welcomed our help with the basics when it came time to add the essential, extra-special ingredients that made it uniquely his he’d pull a sealed plastic packet from his pocket and empty it into the pot and all that he’d say about it was that it had garlic and pimiento and jalapeno in it. We were always frustrated with that answer because all of us agreed that the finished product rivaled the best that any of us had ever eaten – that included our separate visits to New Orleans that were spread over maybe twenty years – and also because, of course, we all routinely use those three ingredients in our gumbos but they don’t even approach Fred’s in the quality department.
Fred always ate with us, of course, but when he’d dealt with the dishes and the pots and pans and was finished for the night he’d go to his little tent and we’d see him in there reading, with the aid of a Kincaid lantern, one of the half dozen or so best-selling suspense novels that Gregg, who had the same taste in reading material, had, as usual, brought up for him.
The rest of us would stay sitting around the fire and when we’d switched from beer to bourbon the bullshit stories would start up and then the, ‘dirtier the better,’ jokes would begin. We’d always save up good ones for the occasion and because I’ve got a bad memory for them I’d write the punch lines on a 4×4 card, as a visual aid, and I’d sneak a look at it surreptitiously just before it got to be my turn again. We couldn’t know if Fred listened or not but I doubt it because he never laughed, not even at my jokes.
On the first Monday morning we got in some more great fishing, before and after lunch, and then we packed up and buried the garbage and filled in the latrine and we left the place well before it started to get dark because it would be foolish to have Fred try to drive back to the cabin without plenty of light to find his way safely through the winding, bumpy, mostly unpaved roads and tracks.
Gregg, being big built, always sat up front with Fred and he kept a cushion stowed under the seat that, when positioned properly, let him half turn and lean back and take part in the general conversation without straining his back or his neck. I, my name is ‘Harry,’ always sat in the second row of seats with Joe and he took the seat behind Gregg – he’s short so he doesn’t need much leg room – and Ben sat in the back row with the beer, a thirty-can case of Coor’s Regular, (or ‘Banquet’ as it’s now called) because we’re loyal to it – along with the case that we’d have already used up by then which was there to take the newly emptied and crushed cans – on the seats beside him. Also, safely located down in Ben’s floor space, was the bourbon, Jim Beam because we’re loyal to that too although we probably wouldn’t attach any loyalty to it if we were starting out today because it now costs as much as the premium ones.
Ben would hand the beers forward as requested and when, inevitably, someone said something stupid but funny like asking in an affected English accent, “I say, Skipper old chap, I do believe that the bally sun has sunk below the port and starboard yardarms and doesn’t that mean that we have to change into our jolly-old cocktail-imbibing rigs?”
The question was always addressed to Gregg and he always replied in the affirmative in a like manner and then he – and all of us in turn – would ask Ben for an exotic drink, like “A Manhattan with an island of chocolate syrup in the middle of it with two cherries and an onion stuck on top and all of it sheltering under one of those cute little multi-colored umbrellas,” and Ben would answer, “Good choice. I can handle that.” and then he’d pour a generous shot of bourbon into one of the heavy bottomed glasses and hand it over. We’d found that those glasses made it less likely that any of its contents would get spilled when the car hit big bumps which was important because on some stretches of the track that happened often.
After around fifteen minutes of driving south from our northern-most fishing spot there was a relatively flat and smooth half mile in which it was safe to speed up to about sixty and Fred had done so that Monday afternoon and just after he’d swung around an easy curve he shouted a warning “Mira! Cuidado!” as he was braking hard.
A huge maple tree had fallen across our track and we slammed right into it.
We all had our seat belts on – who doesn’t nowadays, except for the Governor of New Jersey, it would seem, and he won’t be doing that again anytime soon – and so the three of us in the rear seats only got thrown forward to the extent that the belts would let us go and, when we’d recovered from the immediate shock, a little heavy cussing put us right but not so the two guys in the front seats.
A large branch of the fallen tree had evidently snapped off close to where we hit the massive, immovable tree trunk and the stump of the broken branch came through the windscreen and mashed Gregg’s head squarely against the doorpost and although the branch sloped away it still gave Fred’s head a heavy blow that nearly ripped his right ear off and opened up his cheek. A second later his blood started pulsing out and down and it covered up both of the ugly wounds. He was slumped in his seat and we could see that he was breathing but because he wasn’t moaning or groaning we knew that, mercifully, the blow had knocked him unconscious.
A glance, actually there were three horrified glances that were quickly averted, was all it took to know that Gregg was dead because his head was completely crushed and had turned into an ugly mess of bone and brains and blood. After a moment or two Ben silently passed Joe a towel and he draped it over the gruesome sight.
As we were pulling ourselves together to do something for poor Fred the whole car filled up with a sickening stench and we knew that the sphincter of one or both of them up front had relaxed and had allowed at least one bowel to void, copiously and vilely.
Because there was no power we couldn’t lower any of the windows but we found that the left hand side rear door opened up relatively easily.
We all scrambled to get out but because there was no wind at all we couldn’t go up-wind of the car and so the stink came out with us and we had to walk away for about ten feet before we could take normal breaths.
Luckily for us all, and especially for Fred, Joe had had training as a medic for field casualties in the Army Reserves and so, naturally, we let him take charge and, when we had all shaken off the immediate shock, he sent me to open the fifth door, “If it won’t open smash the glass or something but get into the spare wheel storage place that’s back there and get the red First Aid Box,” and then he and Joe went up front to try to get Fred out of the front seat and into the open air.
When I’d joined them with the First Aid Box I saw that they were trying, but failing, to open up the driver’s side door and we could see that its frame had been warped.
When I’d been looking in the storage space I’d seen that there was one of those good old-fashioned expanding jacks in there so I went back and got it and we used it to force the front door and when it had broken free, and could be swung aside, Joe found that Fred’s right foot, the one that he’d been frantically braking with, was trapped because the engine and the transmission had been forced back, skewed a little by the angle of impact, and had crushed it and trapped it.
We used the jack again to force the car’s body back and away from the transmission and that freed up Fred’s leg and when I’d helped the others to get him out of there we all saw that his foot was just flopping around – it was a sickening sight, hard to even register – and when he was lying on the grass Joe used the scissors from the First Aid Box to cut the leg of his cargo pants and we saw that while huge bruises were forming there already no blood was escaping and that was fortunate for Fred seeing that the mess that was coursing down his legs would have almost certainly caused infection in his open wound. It also helped Joe in that he could then turn his attention to Fred’s head wound. He pulled away chunks of bark and bits of dirt and he applied antiseptic and then rearranged his ear and then he cleaned the torn flap of skin of his cheek and he eased it back into place and then he made a pad out of a bandage to stop the bleeding, and to protect the whole area, and he used another bandage to keep it in place. Then, after going far enough away to be able to take some deep breaths, he came back and turned his attention to the injured shin and ankle.
After some exploratory feeling around he told us that that the shinbones were shattered, not just broken, and he rearranged them as best as he could.
After that we all needed another break – a shot of bourbon was very welcome and not just because of the stink but also to give us enough resolve to go on after accepting, reluctantly, the fact that Gregg was dead forever and that Fred would almost certainly lose the lower part of his right leg.
As he was drinking his whiskey Joe said that we’d have to immobilize the leg from the knee down with splints but that the first thing to do was to clean him up so that we didn’t have to keep on having to break away to find some breathable air.
I took the opportunity to inform them both that my wife’s cousin is a Urologist and he’d told me once that when he was operating on someone’s intestines the thing to do, the only thing to do according to him, was to lean into the stink and become one with it. In answer, Joe handed me the scissors and told me that I was free to go and lean into it and become one with it all that I wanted.
When the bourbon had done its job we went back and Joe used the scissors to cut the rest of Fred’s pants away which he did by cutting the outside of the right leg all the way up to the belt and then, after yet another pause to get some fresh air, he removed the belt and then he cut through the waist band and then through more material until he could get at the left leg. He then cut down the inside of that, all the way, and could then lift the fabric away to one side. He got us to ease up Fred’s hips so that he could pull away the destroyed pants entirely and then, when we’d lowered him again, he began cutting away his stained and stinking boxer shorts.
He used the same cutting technique to be able to move aside the top half of the shorts and, when he’d done that, we were all astonished to see that only black, curly, disgustingly fouled pubic hair had been revealed.
“Jesus H. Christ!” said Ben. “You fucking idiot, Joe! You’ve cut his dick off!”
“Don’t call me a fucking idiot, you fucking idiot. Don’t you think I’d have noticed and can’t you see that there’s no blood? . . . Yeah . . . Well now, let’s see what we’ve got here.”
With that he used his two fore-fingers to part the hair and we all saw that underneath it, hiding coyly and, of course, charmingly even in those circumstances, were two plump outer labia that had some fronds of inner labia peeping and poking out between them.
“Jumping Jesus! He’s got a cunt!” said perspicacious Ben, and then, after we’d turned our astonished and disdainful looks at him, he mumbled, “Well, shit man, if he’s got one of those where’s the tits to go with it?”
Joe undid some buttons on Fred’s plaid shirt and we saw that underneath it, criss-crossed, was a lot of four-inch wide, athletic bandage.
“There you go. Happy now? . . . Well, we’ll have to take the binding off to help him/her breathe but let’s wash him/her first and get rid of this stink. It’s killing me here, man.”
He got us to lift his/her hips off the ground again and then he dexterously used the remnants of the boxer shorts to scoop and contain and wipe up the drying – uh – waste that was lurking and hanging and clinging there and then he stood up and threw the ‘package’ over the top of some brush and as far as the tree trunks behind it would let it go.
We all knew that there was an emergency six pack of Evian in the car – it had been sitting there, untouched, for about five years and we’d often referred to it jokingly – and so Ben went to get it and when he’d brought it back, along with a towel as instructed, Joe swished some of it over Fred’s belly and cleaned it with the towel and then his/her crotch area and then we lifted his/her hips up yet again and turned them so that he could do the same thing to his/her ass.
When that disagreeable task was done we all took a minute to erase the nasty parts from our minds in preparation for the nice part that was surely coming. Joe unbuttoned the plaid shirt all the way down and then we lifted Fred’s shoulders off the ground to let him take the shirt completely off and then unwind the athletic bandage altogether.
The breasts that were revealed were choice and shapely and were hanging nicely and they were made even more attractive because they were sitting on a firm rib cage above a slender waist and nicely proportioned hips and a gently swelling belly and warm, smooth thighs which had a, once disgusting but now clean and enticing, bush of pubic hair nestled between them.
We’d been away from women for eight days and there we were – suddenly confronted with a really good-looking one who was also stark naked.
We all let out an appreciative sigh and from that moment on we were able to completely disassociate Fred from the male gender although it wasn’t all that easy because we’d thought of her as being a man for many years by then.
We were all overcome with compassion for the poor, wonderful breasts because, while they were unarguably beautiful, they were kind of scrunched up in places and they bore cruel marks and ridges across them so we, quite understandably, felt compelled to take it upon ourselves to compete for the job of easing them back into shape, and getting rid of the marks, with loving caresses and by weighing and hefting and molding them – just so.
Joe did his share of revering them, it would have taken a Fred not to do so – oh, sorry, maybe that’s not the right thing to say is it? It’s akin to, “It’s a pity Old Yeller isn’t here. He’d have liked to chew on these bones.” – but he soon restored order by pushing our hands away and reminding us that she was badly hurt and so we helped him to put her shirt back on and then we lowered her down onto the grass again and then waited for him to tell us what to do next. He buttoned the shirt back up to remove the distraction, although her naked crotch continued to do a first class job in that department, and then he told us to go and make a half dozen splints from branches – there was a whole tree full of them to choose from – “They should be no more than an inch in diameter and, uh, about uh – – – this long. Remove the bark and trim them smooth all the way along.”
When we were doing that he took out the wallet from the back pocket of the remnants of the cargo pants and he found a driving license and when we came back with the splints he told us that Fred’s real name was: Frieda Matilda Torres de Calderon and that she was two weeks away from being 43 years old.
The three of us stayed silent after receiving the official confirmation because we were all remembering the nasty cussing that we’d done in front of her over the years and all the stupid macho talk and the schoolboy pranks and, especially, the pointless, filthy jokes.
Joe used Frieda’s belt and his own to secure the splints in place, top and bottom, and after he’d spaced them evenly around her lower leg he wrapped some bandages between the belts and then more of them around her foot until her leg was completely immobilized from the knee down. When he’d finished we congratulated him on the first class job that he’d done.
It was getting dark by then so we decided that it would be foolish to try to carry Frieda the five or so miles back to the fishing spot until the next day – that was the logical place to head for because there was plenty of water there and also many fat trout swimming in it and just waiting to be caught and split and popped into a pan – and so we worked out a plan for the remainder of that night.
The door near Gregg’s stinking body was permanently jammed shut and so we lifted him across and out on the driver’s side and then we carried him down the track twenty feet or so and wrapped him in a blanket and then covered that with a plastic sheet that was one of the ones that we carried in case we needed to protect whatever was on the roof rack if we ran into bad weather.
After cleaning, as best we could, the messes that were up front I broke open a can of my liquid deodorant and I poured it onto the front seat and the floor to try to freshen the air a bit and then we carried Frieda to the car and we put her onto the middle seat and we covered her with another blanket.
We all three sat in the rear row of seats and, thinking that we’d certainly done all that we could do that night, we drank some beers and then Ben put together open sandwiches from various leftovers and we drank more beer with them and, as soon as we deemed it PC, we broke out the bourbon and we got so sozzled, in an effort to forget our grief, that when we woke up in the morning we found that we were all still sitting there although two of us could have gotten comfortable in the space at the back and the other one could have then laid out, full length, on the vacated seat.
When we’d tried, and mostly failed, to eat something for breakfast it came to us that our collapsible bed frames, they were sitting in the rack up-top, would be ideal for use as stretchers and so we laid Frieda, still fully unconscious, on one of them.
We unloaded all of our food supplies for an inventory and, because we knew that the car was to become a temporary resting place for Gregg’s body, we put none of it back inside. We put some of the heavier emergency items – like cans of vegetables and a sealed box of rice – on top of the car and we put the easily portable stuff into our backpacks.
We then retrieved Gregg’s body, not a pleasant job and difficult because of its awkward heaviness, and laid it out on the rear seat. To protect the body from varmints we forced the driver’s side door closed as far as it would go and then we pushed a rolled blanket into the gap and we placed another one over the broken windscreen.
Joe and I put together and then tied up bundles that each contained a tent and a foldable canvas bed and a blanket and Ben freed up another bed for himself and then we filled another back pack with some of the beer and booze and we took turns with carrying Frieda or the heaviest gear on the path back to the fishing spot that we’d thought we wouldn’t be seeing again for another year.
We kept walking without stopping for lunch and when we, at last and with aching arms, arrived at the clearing we raised the two tents and we put Frieda into the small one – we positioned it so that at least one of us could keep an eye on her when we were fishing – and then, although none of us showed much enthusiasm for it, after taking a rest and eating some snacks we put on waders and started casting and this time we put all the fish that we caught into a holding net – just in case.
When we’d eaten dinner, and before it got to be time to get outside of some bourbon, we let Joe speak because he’d told us that he’d already worked out a plan.
“The way I see it is that one of us has to walk back to Gregg’s pl . . . – uh – to the cabin and phone for help from there. Whoever it is who goes has to make it very clear that we need an Ambulance Helicopter with a medic on board because Frieda needs IV’s as soon as is ever possible. Also, he has to call Gregg’s company and tell the CEO what happened and where we’ve left Gregg’s body and that he should please call his wife with the terrible news and then make arrangements to get it taken back to his home or wherever.
“Now, here’s how I see it: It takes us about two hours to drive here from the cabin at a speed that varies between ten and fifty, or sixty maybe, miles per hour so, averaging that down to – say – thirty miles an hour that’s two times thirty which means that we’re about sixty miles north of the cabin. Maybe a little less than that. Agreed?
“Well now, a man’s average walking speed over the long haul is just over three miles an hour so that means that if one of us leaves here early tomorrow morning he could expect to get to the cabin after two full days remembering that we get only about ten hours of daylight at this time of year. Agreed?
“So. The one who goes will take the two small cans of meat that we have left – whoever’s left here can easily survive on fish – and he can take one of the packets of crackers and both of our thermoses filled with coffee. Also, he can take a few beers and, say, a half bottle of bourbon to help him get some sleep in the woods.
“It’ll be up to him if he wants to burden himself with a tent and a folding bed but I’d advise against taking either one because he’ll probably throw them away after a few hours of power walking.
“So, the thing to do now is to pick who’s going to be the rescuer. Right?”
I said that he, Joe, obviously couldn’t go because Frieda needed him to stay with her and Ben agreed with me and then asked if I wanted to toss a coin for the ‘honor.’
Joe broke in here to say that he didn’t want to be pushy but he figured that if it wasn’t to be him then it was Ben who should go – “Because,” he said as he was looking at me, “he’s not as heavy as you are and he works out and so he probably has more stamina over the long haul. Nothing personal, Harry, but we’ve got some real serious shit going here.”
So that was settled and at dawn the next morning we boiled water and filled our thermoses with coffee and gave them both to Ben and then I walked back to the car with him and I helped him select more stuff for his backpack and then we said goodbye and I watched him out of sight. I put all of the remaining beers and two bottles of bourbon into my pack and then I retraced my steps north.
When I got back Joe was ready to go with cooking our late lunch and when we were eating it he told me that he was really worried about Frieda’s deteriorating condition. I went over and took a look at her and I could see that she’d definitely worsened since early that morning in that her face was more drawn and her skin was taking on a grayish look.
I walked back to Joe and he said, “She’s de-hydrated and badly needs an IV to get some fluids into her and I’ve been trying to think of some other way to do it but I haven’t come up with anything that’s feasible given what we have here.”
I said, “I remember seeing on TV a piece about a family that was on a cruise in the South Atlantic when their boat hit an ‘unidentified submerged object,’ as they say, and ten hectic minutes later they were sitting in their inflatable dinghy watching their boat go down. Well, the wife and mother was an ex-nurse and because they had to strictly ration what drinking water there was she gave them all sea-water enemas regularly, using the hand pump that was normally used to pump air into the dinghy, because she knew that our colons can absorb clean water from just about anything that’s put in there. Did you know about that?”
“I’ve heard of it, yes,” he said patiently, “and I thought about doing it but we’re stymied because even if we got a piece of tubing from the car engine, or wherever, we still don’t have a hand pump to use to push the water into her, right? – – – – Got anything else?”
I did some thinking and came up with, “Uh, well, uh, do women’s vaginas and, uh, their uteruses – is it? – absorb water like colons do? ‘Cos it would be a whole lot easier to try forcing water in there, right?”
“Shee-it, will you listen to yourself, man? What am I, a fucking Gynecologist here?”
“Jesus, you asked me, man.”
“Ah, yes, you’re right. Sorry. Well, let me think – – – – Well, I don’t know whether their vaginas can absorb water or not but what about if she’s a virgin? If she is we would probably still need a pump, right?”
“Shit, man, you’re the medic here. Go and find out. In her state she won’t mind a bit, I promise you, and neither would she if she was aware enough to know why you were groping her. Right? We’re trying to save her life, for fuck’s sake.”
When he came back he was shaking his head in disbelief as he told me that not only was she not a virgin but, after applying some salad oil for lubrication purposes – “Ha!” he snorted – first one of his fingers and then two and then three and then all four of them plus his thumb “held like this” had slipped into her easily. “I think I could have gotten my whole hand in there up to the wrist and with enough room to make a fist!”
That gave me pause because I couldn’t readily equate her lovely body with having anything associated with it that wasn’t close to being perfect.
“So, what’s next?” I asked him when I’d managed to cope with the disappointment.
“Hey man. Seeing how close you two were I know it’s a hell of a letdown that she hasn’t saved herself for you but still, looking on the bright side, it might help our cause, right? If we lift her – uh – her ass up into the air maybe we can get gravity to help us. What’d you think? Should we try it?”
“Sure we should. We have to try everything, right? Her life is at stake, right?”
We took off her improvised diaper – Joe had fashioned it from clean parts of her cargo pants and he’d made pads from bandages and paper towels that he’d positioned strategically – and we saw that the pads hadn’t even been dampened no matter about being stained which told us clearly that there wasn’t much of anything left in her system which, in turn, meant that we wouldn’t have to replace the diaper until she’d started eating and drinking again.
We judged that three folded blankets under her hips should give us enough height and, after building a support for her right leg, we lifted her hips up and pushed the blankets under her. I then found out for myself that she was – uh – shall I say – uh – a little slack. She was slack as a yak, in fact, and that had to mean that either the last man in her life had been rigged like a horse or she’d given birth many times, or just once to a baby with a massive head, although we couldn’t see any tell-tale stretch marks on her belly.
I fetched water in a plastic bag and when we’d fashioned a funnel from stiff paper we used it to try to get some of it into her but it seemed to both of us that all of the water that we managed to force in got ejected as soon as we let go with our fingers and withdrew the funnel.
When we’d gotten over our frustration – we both thought it to be very unfair of Nature to not co-operate because although it was a bizarrely erotic procedure our motives were mostly pure – I suggested that we get to be more scientific with our endeavors and so we rigged a plastic sheet under her and with it we were able to measure the amount of water that she ejected and then compare it to the easily measured amount that we’d put in.
The two amounts seemed to us both, independently assessed, to be as near to identical as not to matter very much and so we gave up and removed the plastic sheet and the blankets and we made her comfortable again and we went fishing and then we drank some beer to help us think up some other way to get water into our patient. As we should have suspected, the beer only helped us to want more beer and the feeling of helplessness that enveloped us continued unabated and after eating dinner we switched to bourbon earlier than usual and so the rest of that evening was wasted as far as Frieda’s recovery efforts were concerned although we regularly took turns to see if her condition had changed in any way – it hadn’t – and so we just hung around her for a while each time and talked to her and wet her lips and her brow and massaged her shoulders.
The next morning we both stopped being merely worried and progressed to being outright frightened when we saw her condition – her face seemed to be collapsing in on itself and her skin was much grayer and there were frighteningly long pauses between her shallow breaths – and we guessed that if we didn’t come up with something quickly she wouldn’t be alive when the helicopter came to get us the next day which was the earliest possible time that we could expect it.
Because of the serious condition of our patient neither of us felt a bit hungry so we skipped breakfast and we found that fly-fishing had completely lost its appeal, hard to believe, and when I opened one of my favorite author’s latest novel I found myself having to read the same sentence over and over so I gave up before I got to the end of the first page. With that we gave up on everything else too and concentrated on thinking up someway to get fluid into Frieda.
After a while, I mused out loud about whether or not her skin, overall, would absorb water if we covered her with it and although Joe didn’t think it would he went on to say, “Shit, man, it’s something to try, right? Better than just sitting around waiting for it to get to be cocktail time again.”
We dug a shallow trench and then lined it with the plastic sheet and then we carried water again until it was half full.
We stripped her buck-naked, if you can say that about a woman, and then we carried her down to the trench where we lowered her whole body, except her right leg, into the water and then we added more water until it started running over the sides and then we sat there and watched for improvement.
After ten minutes or so we saw that her lips were turning blue so we knew that we were adding hypothermia to her dehydration problem and so we lifted her out and dried her body and then we put her on some blankets and then we carried them and her nearer to the fire which we’d built up.
By then, the air temperature had risen to a comfortable, for us, seventy degrees or so and we weren’t too worried about our mistake until we checked her, fifteen minutes later, and saw that her lips were still blue and that grabbed our attention, PDQ. We decided that the quickest thing to do would be to use our own body-heat to accelerate warming her up so we got undressed, down to our underpants, and then we sandwiched her between us and, sure enough and “Thank the Good Lord,” as Gregg used to say, that gradually did the trick.
When we’d moved away from her neither of us could hide the fact that we had attention-grabbing, impossible-to-dismiss, groan-producing erections – what else? She had a lovely, well-built body and, of course, we’d had to get really close to it to do the job properly, and, on top of that, we’d both thought that the right thing to do was to rub various parts of it to get her blood to circulate better – and because we were ashamed of ourselves we stripped off our underpants and ran, as best we could, to the river and dived into the cold water and swam round until the unwanted and totally inappropriate swollen appendages had gone back to where they’d come from.
We felt bad about it, of course, but, nevertheless, we knew that what we’d done for her had been very necessary.
Also, as we found out later, the fact of those two erections proved to be the catalyst for our next humanitarian act, which was the one that undoubtedly – I sincerely want to believe this – saved her life.
For lunch we took a couple of fish from our holding net and we grilled them and ate them with some of our rapidly diminishing supply of crackers, along with the last two beers, and then, following my thoughts on the subject of guys having a hurt or a troubled female on their hands, I told Joe about reading a short story somewhere that was based on facts in which elevator companies in New York City had been forced by a new City-wide law to make some of their mechanics accept women as their helpers. It came under ‘The Equal Opportunity Law’ if I remember correctly.
Well, a half dozen mechanics in one company were selected for the experiment but after just one week there was only one woman still on the books. The others had all either quit as soon as they’d found out that they were expected to work in a space that had fast moving cables and sheaves and rapidly spinning generators and motors to one side of them and an open controller, with relays clattering in and out, that had signs saying, “Danger, 440 volts AC,” on the other side. If that didn’t faze them then having to get on top of moving elevator cabs to do inspections and cleanings of the hoistways and having to get down into the elevator pits to clean them, to avoid the risk of fire, made up their minds for them.
The last remaining woman’s mechanic didn’t send her back to the office – to collect her pay and then get laid off – because she had three kids and an aged mother to look after, and to feed and clothe. She frequently asked him – his name was Reggie – for ‘a loan until payday to buy food’ and she had the gall to show up for work every day at around 9.00 instead of 8.00 and she wanted to go home to prepare lunch for them soon after 11.00 and didn’t return until 1.30 and she had to leave early every afternoon to pick up her kids from school at 3.30. Even with all that, his awe for the amount of courage that she was showing in coping with her hard life forced him to put up with it, “for now.”
However, after about a month of that, he got totally pissed off with her when she didn’t show up for work until 10.30 on a day that he’d needed a helper to work with him to get a tricky job done and had had to ask his office to send him another mechanic because – he lied to the dispatcher – the job needed three pairs of hands. When she finally arrived in the motor room where he was doing regular maintenance – he’d fixed the original problem and had sent the extra helper back to his own work-site by then – he remonstrated with her and she came out with a long story about having to take one of her kids to a specialist and he stopped listening about a half way through. When she’d stopped talking he asked her to hand him an adjustable wrench from the tool box that was near her feet and what she gave him was a pair of pliers. Exasperated, he threw the tool against the far wall and stood up to tell her that she was useless and that what she needed was, “A good man to fuck some sense into you.”
She replied, without missing a beat, “Are you man enough, Reggie?”
When she’d shown him what she could do for him – his wife had always answered his pleas to do some of those same things by saying, “No way, man! That’s what whores do.” – he, consequently, got to be so dependent on getting her special services regularly that he agreed to her suggestion about paying her for them – having been whoring since she was about twelve years old she found it next to impossible to keep giving it away and when he was truly hooked she was able to charge him using a sliding scale that was based on the degree of difficulty – and that had solved her money worries nicely because, not only was she always ready to oblige him no matter what outrageous new angle of attack he’d dreamed up, she also cleverly adapted some of the special whore tricks, the ones that she’d used when she was working in her friend’s brothel on Friday and Saturday nights to up the intensity level and get the current john to finish quickly so as to be able to shout “Next!” that much sooner, and she combined those techniques with another trick that she’d used on big tippers – a clever way of clamping down to slow up the action – to maximize and prolong Reggie’s pleasure. The more things she introduced him to the more he needed to keep her available and that was why she was still his helper a full year later.
Joe, in his turn, then dug up an old, not very clever story along the same lines, the punch line of which was, “and so when she got out of bed (on the first morning of their honeymoon) she threw her crutches out the window and we went dancing every night from then on!”
We did some more thinking about our dilemma and then we got to feel a bit sleepy because we hadn’t gotten much quality sleep the night before – we’d both woken up when the stupefying effect of the bourbon had worn off and we hadn’t been able to go back to sleep from worrying about Frieda – and so we decided to take a siesta. We attended to our patient and then we went over to the big tent and crashed.
My bladder woke me up an hour or so later and when I’d dealt with it I went back to the tent intending to rest some more but when I got there I saw that Joe was sitting up and was staring in the direction of the fire. I looked the same way and I saw at once what had grabbed, and was holding, his attention.
As I’ve already said, we’d left her on the blankets by the fire and because we’d seen that she’d started sweating, and that her brow felt overly warm, we’d pulled off the top blanket and had opened her shirt and then we’d spread her arms and legs to let the air cool her and, at that same time, we’d moved her body so that it partially sloped toward the fire and we made a thermal backstop for her, using stakes driven into the ground with blankets draped across them, to keep the breezes away and in case clouds covered the sun and cooled her down again.
Well, it then became obvious to us both that, from our angle of sight when we were doing all that, we couldn’t have noticed the pose that we’d put her in but we sure did when we were looking at her from the tent.
She was lying slightly to one side like Goya’s ‘Maja Desnuda’ and her breasts were displayed, like in the painting, with one hanging nicely and the other one standing centrally. However, Frieda’s legs were splayed and consequently, unlike the painting in which only a hint of labia is visible, she was showing all, all, that she had and it was, uh, an arresting sight for us as it would have been for any and every other man on God’s earth.
Perhaps aided by the fact that we’d recently been fully aroused, seeing Frieda exposed like that made the same thing happen again in seconds and because of that it followed that our thinking became controlled by our lower brains and they, craftily, brought to mind what I’d told about the woman in NYC who’d, “Needed some sense fucked into her,” and what Joe had said about the crippled woman who had, “Thrown her crutches out the window,” after a night of being thoroughly bonked, and Joe said that that kind of therapy might be just what Frieda needed even though her problem wasn’t all that similar to what the other two women’s had been. I immediately saw the validity of his prognosis and I hastened to agree with him because one thing was absolutely clear to us both and that was that we had to be in complete accord about everything that we came up with in the next few minutes.
Although the principle method was already decided on we were still a bit hesitant so we both hunted for rationalizations. I lamely brought up the fact that our semen is mostly protein and so that on its own could well be a good enough reason for pumping some of it into her and Joe somberly observed that, “She’s gonna die for sure if we don’t do something, man, and we surely don’t want to hand over two corpses when the helicopter arrives,” and we came up with a few other motivating ideas like that – more or less equally specious – that would, we hoped, when put together help us justify our being altruistic enough to kindly find out whether shocking Frieda by penetrating her could bring her out of her coma.
We were still reluctant to get on with it for the obvious reason and also because we couldn’t ignore the fact that seeing that she had a horse’s collar between her legs that would probably mean that both of us doing it to her in turn was unlikely to shock her system enough to do the job and then, as we were both waiting for the other one to make the first move, a much, much better proposal came to me and so I shouted out, “Wait a minute, man. What about – ” and I summed up my brainwave by simply quoting the title of the only XXX movie that I’ve ever seen – that’s because I know that they can never make another one that’s nearly as good – “ ‘The Devil In Miss Jones.’ ”
“Yes!” Shouted Joe. “The opening shot! That would have to give the ultimate shock to any woman’s system. Ha! Good thinking, man. Jesus! If that doesn’t work nothing on God’s earth will,” and his enthusiasm and the spelled out logic in his observation broke the impasse and we both made our way down to where Frieda was lying.
When we’d had to take a swim earlier to calm down we’d seen each other’s dicks out in the open and, while his might be a bit longer, mine is definitely thicker and so we both knew, without having to say a word, which of the two stations we had to take.
We moved her away from the fire and then put her onto her right side so that her right leg would keep resting on the blanket and then Joe applied some salad oil, for lubrication, and then we entered her at the same time.
I went all the way in with one motion, hardly touching the sides, and not only was I disappointed but at the same time I was afraid that there wouldn’t be nearly enough friction on hand to excite me enough but when Joe got to be about a halfway in I realized that I could feel his dick’s movements against mine and it made me extra hard – maybe because of the novelty or maybe because by his forcing her colon to expand it made the walls of her vagina close in on me, or for some other reason that, perhaps, is best not analyzed, or even thought all the way through – and I guess that he had to be experiencing something similar because we both quickly arrived at the point where it is impossible to hold back and so we pounded at her willy-nilly and when we climaxed, together, this is how it went:
Me – “Ooooooh! Oh, OH! Fucking ding-dong. Ohhh – Arrrrrrrrgh!”
Joe – “Ooooooh! Oh, OH! Fuck a duck! Ohhhh – Arrrrrrrrrgh!”
Frieda – “Huh? Huh? Ay Dios mio! Que esta pasando?”
We were so embarrassed, while happy with our success, that, in spite of being totally drained, we defied Mother Nature who, of course, wanted us to stay where we were in order to give our seed more time to find its way home. (Well, strictly speaking, it was only the hole that I was rove up that She wanted to keep blocked but Her d’ruthers affected us both equally at that moment.) Anyway, we both defied her by pulling out at once to be able to get away from the wakening princess and get some clothes on and cover her up before she came-to fully.
Joe had to go and wash himself with soap, of course, but I bravely paused to take a look at her and I saw, with vast relief, that she wasn’t quite compos mentis yet and so I took the time to put the make-shift diaper back onto her and then her plaid shirt and when I’d buttoned it up I draped a blanket over her and then I hurried to get my pants and shirt on.
When we checked her out again, tentatively, we were relieved to find that although she appeared to have slipped back into the same coma her arm muscles reacted to a pinprick.
We carried her to her tent and gave her an hour to rest and after that we spoke to her and shook her shoulders and she woke up and groaned with pain and we were delighted to find that, although she clearly didn’t know much about what was happening to her, I could get her to swallow two of the Advil tablets from the bottle of twenty that we’d found in the First Aid Box. When she’d dealt with those I began to spoon water and mashed-up crackers, with oil and bits of fish mixed in, into her mouth. On seeing her swallowing successfully Joe whooped out thanks to the “Good Lord” and then he did some deep breathing and then left me there to get on with it and he went fishing for, “Ultra fresh protein for her.” Or so he said.
When I judged that she’d had enough food, for starters, I lowered her head again and she went back to sleep after thanking not me, by name, but certainly someone.
Joe caught and netted a half dozen more fish – doing so had, evidently, let him deal with his funk, more or less – and then neither he nor I wanted to do anything except just sit around again because, as you can no doubt guess, both of us were in the strange position of being exalted with our cleverness at bringing Frieda back into the land of the living and, at the same time, ashamed and also very worried about what she was going to say to us when she’d recovered properly.
When the smell of grilled fish woke her up – fillets of fish were going to be our dinner that night again as they’d been, and were to be, for every other meal since we’d been left alone with her and consequently neither Joe nor I could eat fish fillets for around a year after we got back home – she called out something obscure in Spanish and we both froze and thought that she was calling us to come to her so that she could give us a savage cussing-out concerning our recent, almost certainly highly reprehensible, behavior but when we got there we saw that she wouldn’t look us in the face, and was blushing to boot, and she mumbled something apologetically dismissive and waved us away.
When we were sitting by the fire again we figured that she’d called out only because she’d become aware enough to find out, and to be dismayed at finding out, that she was not only trouser-less but was wearing a diaper and no longer had any chest binding, and so, obviously, her secret was gone forever. After that comforting thought we went on to conjecture that besides being embarrassed about having two men around who’d thought her to be a man for years and who now knew, indisputably, what her true gender was – and is – she also must have been hurting in so many other places that having a sore anus to go along with all the rest of it hardly registered.
When she’d eaten and drunk some more and had gone back to sleep again we both began worrying about whether or not she’d be automatically checked for possible rape at the hospital – we doubted it because we guessed that they’d reason that seeing that she was of sound mind when she arrived she would have made a complaint right then if one was justified – but we sure didn’t want to take any chances so we eventually reasoned out that getting her to defecate would wipe away all proof of Joe’s involvement – unless her anus was torn – but we both knew enough about the female reproductive lay-out to realize that mere urination wouldn’t do the same thing for her vagina so that left me firmly still on the hook.
We decided to tackle the two problems in turn and because it stood to reason that urination comes much more easily and frequently than defecation, not to mention the fact that she might well turn out to be constipated, we figured that we should concentrate on the latter one and to that end, as it were, I got out the small packet of Ex-lax that I’d seen in the First Aid Box the day before.
From then on, when her pain woke her up and made her groan, we’d help her to swallow another Advil and then a small piece of ‘chocolate’ and then to eat some solid food.
When it got to be time for us to get some sleep that night we split the task of watching over her, and seeing to it that her stomach always had something to process, and by the time that the morning came we were happy with knowing that we’d both done as much, and as well, as was possible.
The indisputable proof that our strategy had worked came after we’d spoon-fed breakfast to her and were finishing our own down by the fire. We heard her call out, in distress, – “Ay Dios mio! No, no. Ay, ay, ay, que Dios me ayuda. No, no, por favor Senor, no! Ayeeee! Esta salienda! (It’s coming out!) Eeeeeek!”
We ran to her and on the way we heard a lot of spluttering going on along with farts and popping sounds and dribbling and when we got closer the stink of fresh human excrement reached out to meet us and it is unlikely, “maybe in the entire history of man” as Joe said later, that it has ever been welcomed so fervently.
Joe, smiling from here to here, made me stop just outside her tent and whispered that it would be better if only he went to her because otherwise she’d be overly embarrassed but he asked me to not wander away too far and to come when he called. I went back to the fire and as I went I heard him trying to soothe her by saying that he’d been a medic in the army and she should think of him as being a nurse and also that it was silly to be ashamed of a normal bodily function that everybody has to deal with every day and then, “Just turn your head away and think of something else while I’m cleaning you up and don’t pay it any mind. You’ll be spic and span again in next to no time.”
A few minutes after I’d sat down he called to me to bring water and a hand towel – and some bandages and paper towels so that he could make more pads – and when I’d delivered them all he handed me one of those removable ‘add-ons’ for a shoulder pack that had a nasty, smelly package in it and he told me to bury it and he made gestures to indicate that the hole should be really deep.
When he came back to the fire he was again smiling all over his face and I knew what was causing it even before he whispered to me that her anus showed no signs of ‘trauma.’
That took care of Joe’s problem and so we could then turn to solving mine.
Because we’d realized that a good douching was the only sure way of washing all evidence out of her vagina we came up with a plan – a cunning one, I think you could say, complete with the fortuitous double meaning of that descriptive term – and to carry it out properly and without raising her suspicions we needed her to have a fairly full bladder and then, when we figured that she had to be pondering on how to deal with it – we were sure that she’d be very reluctant to let it empty into her diaper and have to call for help again – Joe was to pay her a ‘check-up’ visit and casually inform her that we’d built a submerged commode in the river and then he was to ask her if she’d like us to carry her there and let her sit in it for a while.
The first part of the plan, of course, was to build a ‘comfort station’ and so while Joe was digging a little cove in the riverbank I went and pulled out some of the four-inch-wide plastic slats that were in slots in the floor of Gregg’s big, expensive, Abercrombie and Finch all-weather tent. We cut and broke five of them in half and used four of the halves to make a seat that was about one-foot under water and four more of them to form a back rest and the other two pieces for a support for her right leg. We figured that she should feel comfortable while she was waiting for Nature to dictate the next move.
From then on, feeding her sparsely but regularly, we kept making her drink water but when, all of two hours later, she still hadn’t shown any signs of distress – Joe reasoned that her body was absorbing all the water that we were giving her because it had been dried out for so long and also from losing so much blood – and because we wanted to be sure that my problem had been taken care of before nightfall, seeing that the helicopter might come at first light, we decided that Joe had better make his helpful suggestion at once and so he went back and told her about the commode and on hearing of its existence she suddenly found that she had an urgent need to use it.
When he called me over she’d already, at his suggestion, allowed him to take her diaper off and she was holding a folded towel strategically. We gave her a few more sips of water and then we grabbed each other’s wrists under her thighs and got her to put an arm over both of our shoulders and we lifted her and then carried her down to the river where we put her down on the grass next to the comfort station – the one that had to have the biggest flush system that there ever was.
I made a big deal about walking away about twenty feet and then turning my back and I heard Joe offer to lift her shirt up and tie it there, out of the way, and when I peeked a minute later I saw him helping her to slide her bottom over to and down onto the board-seat where the water covered her to within an inch or two of her navel. He then told her that he was going to leave her alone for a while but that he would stay within calling distance in case something went wrong.
He came over to where I was standing and, because of his official position, he was allowed to keep sneaking glances at her and he was soon rewarded, all the while giving me a whispered running commentary, with the sight of her straightening her spine and then straining her belly muscles for a few seconds, and go “Mmmph,” and then relax and hold still as, obviously, she was allowing her urine to void. When she’d finished Joe was delighted to see, and quickly shared that delight with me, that she’d lowered her left hand into the water, between her legs, and had then used her right one to paddle some of it at herself. That, of course, meant that our scheme had almost certainly succeeded brilliantly.
A dozen jocular remarks easily came to mind but we were both so relieved, as it were, that we settled for Joe’s succinct comment – “Ooooh! Just imagine.”
Two helicopters, one had a huge red cross painted on it’s belly that proclaimed that it had a Paramedic on board and the other one was the ME’s – which had the letters NYSME on the side – came into sound and then sight just after we’d eaten breakfast and the ME’s pilot must have seen the crash site from on high because he veered off and flew there directly before he got up to us.
After greeting the pilot and the Paramedic I let Joe make his report and I went over to the river and released the fish that were in our holding net and then I cleaned up the site and put everything that was out in the open inside the tents and then I pulled out the supporting poles and I used all the ropes to tie down the canopies so that they covered and protected the contents.
When she’d attended to Frieda we helped the Paramedic, and the pilot, load her on board and then we got on too and in not too long a time we were landing on the roof of the nearest hospital that, it so happened, wasn’t all that far from Gregg’s cabin.
Ben was waiting for us in the lobby and after brushing aside our thanks he asked us for details of what had happened from the time that he’d left us.
I told him that we’d spent most of the time worrying about Frieda and that it had been a huge relief for us both when she’d come out of her coma and could eat and drink normally because she’d lost a lot of blood and was seriously dehydrated.
“Hooo, boy, I’ll bet it was a ‘huge relief’ all right. When did that happen exactly?”
“Well,” said Joe, “we tried a half dozen things over the two days that you were gone but we didn’t succeed until yesterday afternoon when we figured that we’d better step back and think it all through again and so we did that and what we came up with was that our best approach would be to attempt to get to, what you might call, the core of her very being. Sure enough, it worked.”
Ben tried to puzzle that one out as we walked to Gregg’s Mercedes.
We had to use the car to go back to the cabin because, when we were in the helicopter, I’d gone up to where Frieda was laying – the morphine, or whatever, had eased her pain well but she could still pay attention and understand me – and I’d told her quietly, in Spanish, that I was worried that when Gregg’s wife found out that ‘Fred’ was really ‘Frieda’ she’d think the worst about her being alone with men for weeks at a time – and having done so for years – and might well change the locks on the cabin to keep her out and so, “If you like, we’ll go there as soon as we can and pack up your personal stuff and bring it back to you in the hospital.”
She thanked me and said, “That’s really kind of you Geraldo (that’s ‘Harold’ in Spanish) and when you do that please throw away all of ‘Fred’s’ stuff and just bring me my Frieda clothes. There are only a few of them and they’re all in the closet in my room. Also, please bring me the adornos on the walls and especially the wooden Santos because my mother sent all of those to me as birthday presents over the years. Oh, there’s another thing,” here her voice dropped to a whisper, “when the others aren’t looking – the fewer who see the better, right? – please pull out the drawer that’s second from the top in my gabitero and you’ll find that there’s a false back in it and behind that you’ll see money and a wallet with my papers in it and also my grandfather’s gold watch and my grandmother’s necklace and a few other little things. Please put all of that in a separate bag and bring it to me and put it directly into my own hands and no one else’s. Please?”
On the ride to the cabin we could see that Ben was brimming over with questions but we’d insisted that he was to do the driving knowing that that would force him to save them for another time because he’d have to concentrate on negotiating the narrow, winding roads.
When we got to the cabin we all went up to Frieda’s room and we packed her clothes into a small suitcase and we put ‘Fred’s’ stuff in a large cardboard box and then Joe said that he’d go and look in his own room to see if Ben had missed anything – he’d kindly packed up our stuff that morning and had put it all in the trunk of the Mercedes – and Ben, in a huff, said that he’d go with him -“Huh! I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you find a single thing that I left behind.” – and that left me alone to pull out the second drawer from the top of the chest of drawers and drop it on the bed. I saw that on the far side of the crudely fashioned but effective false partition there were the items that she’d mentioned including no less than eleven rubber-banded rolls of fifty one-hundred-dollar bills and a smaller one of about thirty bills. I looked for something to put everything in and I found a plastic shopping bag but it was transparent so I lined it with a pillowcase and then I put the money into it along with a big, old-fashioned gold watch and a necklace that had a cross on it and a gold-plated cigarette lighter and a well-worn wedding ring and some trinkets.
That left me with the big wallet that was made of soft leather and inside it was Frieda’s Costa Rica passport and her US of A citizenship papers and her birth certificate and some official-looking papers, maybe to do with the ownership of property, that had a whole lot of foreign stamps on them and many elaborate signatures and back-up signatures too.
In another compartment of the wallet there was a folded piece of paper and when I opened it up my surprise nearly made me drop it and the wallet.
It was written in Spanish and English and at the top there was the name of a nightclub and underneath that was its address in the town of Mexicali.
The first line went like this:
“3 D – X X X – 3 D – X X X – 3 D”
And then came the times of performances and then a listing of prices for the different seats and then, in big letters –
“STRICTLY ADULTS ONLY.”
And then, in the biggest letters of all –
“NO HABRA REMBOLSO BAJO NINGUNA CIRCUNSTANCIA.”
“NO MONEY WILL BE REFUNDED FOR ANY REASON.”
I was shocked by seeing it because it took me back to my freshman year in college in San Diego. I’d seen posters similar to it stapled to lampposts on my visits to Juarez – it was so easy to cross and re-cross the border back then, and so safe, that we’d go down there on most weekends to get laid maybe but certainly to drink beer and play pool – and they’d always puzzled me. One day something triggered me into asking a Nicaraguan classmate of mine why the showing of a triple-X porno movie in 3-D in Juarez, of all places, was made into such a big deal.
He laughed out loud and then said, “What a naïve asshole you are Harry, my gringo friend. It’s got nothing to do with a porn movie, for fuck’s sake. It’s a live, on-stage performance and all of those ‘3 D’s’ promise that Tres Differente mujeres (that’s Three Different women) will fuck Three Different donkeys in Three Different ways!”
Back in San Diego, I’d been both surprised and ashamed of my ignorance but sitting there on Frieda’s bed I was ashamed of the human race because knowing Frieda personally meant that the horror of it was brought home much more vividly. I tried to block the images that came to mind that featured her in them but I couldn’t so I hurriedly refolded the piece of paper and put it back where I’d found it and then I went looking for the other guys.
When we were back in the car I told Ben to first take us to a bank, in the town that the hospital was just outside of, and when we got there and had parked I went in and asked to see the manager. When I’d explained the circumstances he smoothed the way to letting me rent a safety deposit box for Frieda after explaining to me that the only way that he could let it happen was if I opened the account in both of our names and went through all of the formalities, right there and then, and that way she, Frieda, would only have to bring two ‘cast-iron’ proofs of identity directly to him, the manager, when she came out of hospital and then go through the same routines.
After locking up the valuables and, of course, pocketing the key I re-joined the others and we drove to the hospital – on the way we stopped to dump the box of ‘Fred’s’ belongings in a Good Will hopper – and then we took all of Frieda’s stuff up to her room – a private one because the CEO of Gregg’s company had so ordered – and I gave Frieda a conspiratorial wink and when I could get a private word with her I handed her the key and I told her that I hadn’t liked the idea of having to trust the hospital staff, or anyone else, with that amount of money and then I explained what she’d have to do to get it and her other stuff back when she was good and ready.
When she’d fully understood the situation, and the details, she thanked me and I told her that she was welcome and then I said goodbye but I hesitated before walking out of her room because I knew that something more was called for so I forced myself to bend down and kiss her good cheek – as I’d guessed it would, doing so felt strange and awkward – and I murmured something along the lines of, “Get well soon,” and then I hurried away to catch up with my fellow ex-fly-fishermen who were, understandably, anxious to get home.
When we were on the highway, going south, and the car had effortlessly and smoothly taken us up to around eighty miles an hour Ben cleared his throat to prepare to ask the big question and so, to head him off, Joe plied him with a series of queries about his long walk to find help. He didn’t cotton on to the evasive tactic until Joe asked him if he’d slept in a tree at night and if so what kind was it and had then come out with – “Please give us your reasons for picking that particular one. For future reference, you know?”
Ben stopped his answer in mid sentence and said, “Fuck you Joe, are you going to tell me what getting to the, what was it? – uhh, yes – ‘getting to the core of her very being’ means?”
I jumped in then because I feared that Joe had nearly painted himself, and therefore me too, into a corner where we really didn’t want to be and so he might find himself forced into saying exactly which ‘core’ he’d loosely referred to and so I broke in to say, “What it means is that we decided to get down to basics and try changing the only things that her inert body might react to independently of her brain, namely: heat and cold.”
I went on, “We built up the fire and pulled her near to it and we arranged a shelter of blankets to form a kind of oven and when she’d started to sweat all over we moved her away and then splashed cold water on her. We followed that cycle three times and then, thank Jesus or ‘Thank the Good Lord’ as Gregg used to say” – awkward pause, and then – “she came to and murmured in Spanish, “What’s happening?” Then she kind of slipped away again but we stopped worrying when we found that she reacted to a pinprick on her skin – she hadn’t done that before – and that told us that she wasn’t in a coma anymore. Sure enough, when we lifted her head up a bit later and called her name she opened her eyes and asked for water.”
“Ah, ha,” said trusting Ben, “I would’ve never thought of doing that. Well done, guys. You two probably saved her life. Right? You know that, don’t you?”
It was quite understandable that neither Frieda nor Fred came to Gregg’s funeral a few days later and, indeed, we never saw her again but after a month had gone by all three of us received type-written letters from her, two of them were copies, and she’d left a space at the top for writing in our different names.
I’ll always be grateful to you and to the other two for, as the doctors told me in the hospital, combining your efforts to – ‘almost certainly saving your life.’
I have enough money saved – thanks to Mrs. Arnold, the previous owner of the ‘cabin’ as you call it, and to poor Gregg (RIP) and to all three of you and the other guests for your generous gifts over the years – to let me go and live, year round, near my mother in the little house in Costa Rica that I’ve had built for me and have, until now, let some of my relatives use.
I hope that by the time I’ve mastered the use of this new right leg of mine – the insurance company paid for it and for the on-going therapy too and Gregg’s (RIP) company generously paid for the helicopter and for the ‘private room’ part of the hospital bill – my hair will have grown out as appropriate for a ‘Frieda.’
Also, I have enough years of employment, and the right papers, to be able to apply for Social Security – the social worker who does these things for the Hospital got me to change the order of the words in the line in the application form that asks for details about my duties in the employ of Mrs. Arnold and of Gregg (RIP) from what I was going to put down – ‘Housekeeper and cook and chauffeur,’ to ‘Chauffeur and housekeeper and cook,’ because it seems that that will mean that I can probably get full disability benefits seeing that the accident happened when I was driving you all home.
So, I’m ‘set for life’ as you say in this country.
Thank you again,
PS – Gregg’s (RIP) wife, although she didn’t come to see me, was nice enough to send word that I could come and take away my personal furniture from my room in the ‘cabin’ and I arranged to get that done and it is now in storage.
She’d added, in handwriting and in Spanish, at the bottom of her letter to me:
“Geraldo, I can’t thank you enough for your friendship over the years. It meant a great deal to me that you – only you although the others were always very nice to me – made me feel like a friend rather than a servant. Also, thanks very much for arranging the Safety Deposit Box, which was very clever of you and it has saved me from a lot of worry. So, because of those two things and many others, I’m sending you the full recipe for my Gumbo. I know that that will please you but I’d appreciate it if you don’t let anyone else see it and don’t tell anyone either.
Sadly, (‘Ay! Que gran lastima,’), when you’ve read it you’ll then know all three of my, up to now, carefully guarded secrets. For a long time I believed that they’d all be safe forever from everyone but that didn’t happen, did it? Believe me, I’ll take good care to see to it that no one in Costa Rica ever finds out what my core secret is. (que es mi secreto mas profundo.)
Adios y saludos, Frieda.”
I didn’t have to wonder for a second about what she’d referred to as her “core secret” and my knees weakened and I had to sit down quickly.
When I’d beaten back my remorse, yet again, I was helped with regaining my composure, some, when I saw that on the back of her letter she’d written her gumbo recipe and it started with a list of the regular ingredients – she used ‘kilos’ and ‘liters’ and ‘cups’ as appropriate but instead of ‘tsp’ or ‘tblsp’ she used ‘pinches’ or ‘small -’ or ‘medium -’ or ‘large handfuls’ – and along with the well-known items were two very surprising ones that nobody could have ever even guessed at. It called for ‘two pinches’ of a certain dried and powdered one and ‘a small handful’ of a fresh one.
The following Saturday I went to Hackensack in N.J. because I’d been told that there’s a store there that specializes in Hispanic foods and when I’d located it I bought what I needed and I served Frieda’s gumbo to my family for dinner the next day and ever since then I’ve had to hold to my promise to make a big pot of it every Sunday to avoid getting worn down by pleas and annoying whining and wheedling from my family and close friends.
I’ve got more sense than to ever invite Joe or Ben over for Sunday dinner.
In case of prying eyes I’ve obliterated forever, with white-out, the two secret ingredients – there’s no chance at all that I’ll ever forget them – and I’ve framed a copy of the main part of Frieda’s letter and I’ve hung it on the wall that’s directly in front of my desk at home. I’ve highlighted the first sentence in it that quotes the Doctor’s words, – “almost certainly saving your life.” – and, believe me, I didn’t do that for anything that’s even remotely vainglorious.